Leadership ethics

  • Values and facts
  • Ethics develop and change over time
  • Leadership involves ethics
  • The dilemma
  • Consequences and leadership decision-making

Ethics is the study or treatment of moral questions or dilemmas. Ethics is therefore concerned with determining why some situations or actions may be better or worse than others. They are about determining a good act from a bad act within a particular community, time and place. In outdoor leadership, ethical decision-making arises out of the need to resolve dilemmas of some sort where no clear right or wrong course of action is evident, where no way exists to find the right answer by measurement, calculation or testing.

This section does not differentiate between the words ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’, although a fine distinction in meaning is sometimes made. Ethical is often used in a quasi-legal sense, such as in following a code of conduct. Moral is used more in a quasi-religious or personal sense, such as in individual moral behaviour. In outdoor leadership, the distinction seems inappropriate given the leader’s role in both quasi-legal and more personal contexts.